Greg Moran, one of the Africa on Foot rangers, sent through an avalanche of leopard reports. Recently, the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve has been rife with leopard sightings and we’re starting to wonder if Greg isn’t an undercover leopard whisperer, given his recent encounters. Yesterday, Ross Dam and her cubs were on a kill when an opportunistic hyena stole their meal. Ross Dam chased the hyena and retrieved the kill, providing a series of antics that entertained onlookers.
Here’s a detailed analysis of the case of the stolen kill, the leopard cubs and hyena:
1. Student guide Ray was at the scene with Ross Dam, her cubs and a fresh kill. Ray dutifully alerted all and sundry about the sighting. As Greg arrived, everyone lost visual on Ross Dam. When they pulled the vehicle into the sighting, the Africa on Foot team saw one of the thieving clean-up crew (hyena) sprinting away with part of a kill. It appears that something frightened one of Ross Dam’s cubs and the kill was accidentally dropped.
2. When the hyena retrieved the kill it started to sprint away in a rather awkward, loping manner. The hyena was nervous and kept looking over his shoulder in fear. In the thickets the mother leopard was spotted stalking, keeping low and dropping down. Obviously she was in hot pursuit of the hyena. Under normal circumstances, a leopard may leave the situation alone, but Ross Dam has cubs to feed and decided she wasn’t having her family meal stolen!
3. Eventually, after significant stalking, darting and taking cover, Ross Dam ambushed the hyena. Out of pure anger and the innate need to feed her cubs, she grabbed the kill from the hyena and headed towards a false Marula tree. She stashed stashed the kill neatly and compactly in the fork of the tree for safekeeping. Guests and rangers managed to observe her for a few minutes while she spent time securing her kill away from the prying eyes of scavengers.
4. After ensuring the family meal was in tact, Ross Dam clambered down the trunk of the tree with stealth and grace; and made her way back to the cubs. After her departure, a kettle of vultures was spotted circling the kill. Ross Dam is going to have to return in order to chase the vultures away. So little food, so many imminent threats! The life of a leopard.
5. When Greg left the scene, they saw one of the cubs sprinting across the road. He decided not to put pressure on the cub and drove further away. As everyone looked into an open area, they saw a delightful spectacle of leopard antics. The male cub was lying in a pouncing position, practicing his ambushing techniques and the female cub was copying him. Ross Dam sauntered across the area and monitored their clumsy attempts at stalking. She still has a while to teach them a bit of prowess when it comes to taking down prey.
All in all, a rather successful day of leopard sightings in the Klaserie! We will wait and see what tonight brings.